The Electoral Process
Under the 1987 Law of Elections, all citizens have the right to vote or be elected, except active-duty members of the Public Forces and anyone whose citizenship rights have been suspended. Electoral registrars (padrones electorales) determine citizens' qualifications to vote. The franchise is obligatory for those entitled to vote, with the exception of illiterates, persons over seventy-five years of age, those certified as sick or physically disabled, individuals who suffered a domestic calamity on election day or from one to eight days before, and citizens who are absent from the country or who arrived on the day of the election.
The 1979 Constitution establishes several innovations in the system for designating the president and vice president. Whereas previously they were elected by a plurality, the Constitution requires that they be elected by an absolute majority of votes. This usually requires a second electoral round between the two leading candidates. The three organs responsible for overseeing the electoral process, with the aid of the Public Forces, are the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), TPEs (Provincial Electoral Tribunals), and the Vote Receiving Committees (Juntas Receptoras del Voto--JRVs).
As the highest of these bodies, the TSE is responsible for appointing and supervising TPE members, overseeing the electoral registrars, convoking elections and the entities that form the electoral colleges, counting electoral votes, resolving appeals of rulings made by the TPEs, and issuing regulations governing the political parties. The TSE must convoke elections at least 120 days in advance of the casting of ballots. If this deadline is missed by more than forty-eight hours, the TGC may convoke the elections or a popular referendum and replace the TSE members with their substitutes, although in 1989 the constitutionality of this arrangement remained an issue. The TSE must resolve within ten days appeals raised about TPE decisions not to register candidates, to nullify votes, to invalidate or annul the vote counting, or to impose penalties for electoral infractions. The TSE also resolves electoral complaints made against civil authorities.
The TPEs are formed by the TSE in each province. The seven TPE members, who serve two years, represent the various political parties. TPE members direct and oversee the electoral process in their own jurisdiction and see that the orders of the TSE are carried out. The TPEs also appoint the members of the JRVs, conduct vote counting in their jurisdiction in a popular referendum or in elections for mayor, and resolve complaints by citizens and political parties over electoral irregularities.
The JRVs receive ballots at a public polling place on the election days. For each election, the TPEs designate a number of JRVs in accordance with the electoral registrars. The JRVs each have three principal members, three substitutes, and a secretary, all of whom are selected by their respective electoral registrar. The various political parties must be represented in the JRVs. Parties submit suggested candidates to the TPE at least sixty days before elections. The principal powers and duties of the JRVs are to provide each citizen with ballots and later a certificate of having voted; to conduct partial vote counting immediately after the polls have closed; to determine the number of valid, blank, or null votes; and to remit the ballots to the TPEs.
Only legally recognized political parties may declare candidates and register them. Registration must be completed ninety days before the date of the elections. A citizen may not be a candidate in a national and provincial election simultaneously. The president and vice president of the republic, mayors, presidents of municipal councils, provincial prefects, and most of the councillors, council members, and national and provincial deputies are elected in the first electoral round every four years. The second electoral round is held two years after the first round. Provincial deputies, whose term lasts two years, and some replacements for councillors and council members are elected at that time.
The Constitution provides for a popular consultation (consulta popular), which the Law of Elections refers to more specifically as a plebiscite (generally held as a vote of confidence on an action of a government) or a referendum (generally held to approve the text of a law). Either the executive or the legislative branch of government may call on the electorate to resolve a divisive issue, although the former has greater prerogatives to hold a popular consultation.
The decision adopted by a popular consultation is final. Febres Cordero became embroiled in a constitutional row in early 1986 when he formally called for an election-day plebiscite on whether independent candidates should be allowed to run for elective office. The opposition, believing that the proposed reform was designed to concentrate political and economic power in the presidency, contended that Febres Cordero's action violated Article 78, which allows the president to call plebiscites on "issues of national transcendence," but not on constitutional amendments. The opposition also claimed that Febres Cordero violated a provision giving the president recourse to a plebiscite only if Congress votes against a constitutional reform proposed by the executive. Although Febres Cordero had his way and the plebiscite on the constitutional amendment was held in June 1986, he lost the vote by a margin of 58 to 26 percent.
|Country Studies main page | Ecuador Country Studies main page|